Group dog training sessions at a Nursing home brightens residents lives.
I recently completed 12 weeks of obedience training with my 10 month old English Golden Retriever; he completed Basic Obedience & Manners level 1 and 2. Before deciding on which trainer to use, I did some homework by speaking to my dog’s Vet and to other dog owners, as well as speaking to several trainers. I knew I wanted a trainer that relied upon positive reinforcement, but other than that I didn’t know what else to look for in a trainer.
After speaking to the recommended trainers, I selected Happy Hounds. The owner, Ritsa Galitsis, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and personally runs all the training sessions. Basic 1 is a six week program, and the first session is held in your house. This gives the trainer an opportunity to see your dog in its daily environment and how it interacts with all family members. It also gives you a chance to show and discuss with the trainer any particular behavior issues that you would like to focus on.
After the initial meeting, the next 5 training sessions are held with other dog owners and their dogs in a group setting. These hour long sessions are held at Oak Hollow Nursing Center in Middle Island. Happy Hounds holds the group training sessions at this Nursing home so that the residents can watch the training sessions, and interact with the dogs. During the five weeks the dogs learn the basic manners of sit, down, wait, stay, come, leave it and walking nicely on leash. The dogs learn these manners while interacting with other dogs in the group and while in the presence of the nursing home residents, which helps to improve your dog’s socialization process which is an added benefit.
What affected me the most was seeing how much the residents truly looked forward to being able to watch the group dog training. They learned the names and breeds of all the involved dogs and enjoyed being part of class. This was the best feel good dog training that I could imagine. I brought my kids a few times so that they could be a part of a little life lesson.
Basic 2 involved six more weeks of group training sessions at Oak Hollow and the dogs worked on accepting a friendly stranger, sitting for petting and grooming, walking on a loose leash, walking through a crowd, staying in place at a distance, coming when called, reacting to another dog, and more. All the while the residents continued to enjoy the company of the dogs and owners. At the end of the 12 weeks it was sad to say goodbye to the residents, but they will be able to enjoy the company of the new classes to come.
This training experience has convinced me to continue my dog’s training and to have him tested to obtain his certification as a Therapy dog, which he can do once he turns one. Then I will be able to visit Oak Hollow and other Nursing Homes, Rehabilitation facilities, and possibly local hospitals. How great would it be to bring a smile to child confined to a hospital or to a Veteran confined at the Stony Brook facility? Columbia/NY Presbyterian Hospital in the city has an incredible dog visiting program available to patients with thousands of registered dogs participating. I called the local hospitals and none have any type of a dog visiting program I was told. This is truly a shame and maybe someone reading this with contacts at one of our local hospitals can make a suggestion to the decision makers. There is something about a dog that makes most people feel good inside, so if you are so inclined, check out Happy Hounds Dog Training. Maybe you too will want to look into turning your dog into a Therapy dog.